ACLU-PA Position: Opposes
Known as "Shawn's Law," HB 184 (PN 152) would require the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing to establish a sentence enhancement for causing or aiding suicide when, at the time of the offense, the person who died by suicide was under 18 years old or had an intellectual disability.
Causing or aiding suicide is already heavily criminalized in Pennsylvania and, at its most severe, is punishable by death or life without parole. The enhancement proposed by HB 184 is both unnecessary and unjust. HB 184 would enhance a second-degree felony to a first-degree felony, which carries an additional minimum of 10 years of incarceration. Rather than justifying such a significant escalation of punishment on intent or brutality, HB 184 instead makes it easier to punish people more — the enhancement does not require that someone know the person who died by suicide had a disability, was on the autism spectrum, or was under 18 years old, making this a strict liability crime in Pennsylvania. And because the bill does not differentiate between aggravating and non-aggravating cases, HB 184 would base this enhancement solely on the age or intellectual or developmental ability of the victim.
HB 184 was signed into law by Governor Wolf as Act 71 of 2021 on September 30, 2021.